National Audit Office examines why industry is still falling short of output targets

The National Audit Office (NAO) is conducting an inquiry into the housebuilding industry to help it meet the target of building 200,000 homes by 2016.

Government agencies are concerned that housebuilders are not building more homes despite reform to the planning system and extra funds. On present trends the South-east will have 217,000 fewer homes than required by 2016.

The DTI, the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships, which commissioned the research from parliament’s spending watchdog, are also keen for housebuilders to compare their working practices by compiling information on 87 key performance indicators.

It is believed these findings could influence how the corporation distributes its £3.9bn two-yearly budget.

On present trends the South-east will have 217,000 fewer homes than it needs by 2016

The NAO has been meeting housebuilders in the past five months to identify blockages. These include how long it takes to acquire a site or planning approval. It also wants to know how much it costs to complete individual stages of building.

The industry has taken a positive approach to the inquiry but has been surprised by some questions. One source said: “There are weird questions like ‘How many skips do you use a year?’ and ‘What’s in your skips?’”

Another source said: “There’s definite unease in the industry. You could see worrying conclusions out of it.”

The NAO was unavailable for comment.